By Kathy Miedema
Observers of the night sky have a new, easy-to-use, interactive tool for finding up-to-the-minute information about asteroids and connecting with a like-minded community of skygazers, thanks in part to Oracle Group Vice President Jeremy Ashley and his Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) team.
The latest project in the team’s social innovation program, the Daily Minor Planet, is an autogenerated online newspaper that collects asteroid news of the day for subscribers. Launched in August, it is a component of the NASA Minor Planet Center’s (MPC) Asteroid Data Explorer tool—itself the product of an earlier collaboration between Ashley’s team and NASA that transforms the MPC’s dense collection of technical asteroid data into interactive, easy-to-understand charts.
Focus on Simplicity
“The project demonstrates how the work Oracle does in enterprise applications, where we’re looking at large amounts of information such as financial data or product information, mirrors many of the same questions that generally we have about life,” says Ashley. For example, he says, the need for users to understand very simply what they want to find, then be able to find it, and then be able to get more information—with as little trouble as possible—prompted the UX team to stress simplicity in the design strategy for Oracle’s enterprise apps. The team used the same focus on simplicity when helping to create the Daily Minor Planet.
“The Daily Minor Planet allows anybody with an interest in asteroids to participate very simply, easily, and directly,” says Ashley. “This is a philosophy we’ve been pushing with our other apps. It’s a basic human trait to be curious, and UX design should provide a path for users to get information that feeds that curiosity and answers questions.”
The successful part of any project is not the data or the technology, but the passion of the team, Ashley adds. “You can tell whether people who build the product really loved building it,” he says. “For this project, we had a great team of enthusiastic people from all sides, and that passion is reflected in the final result.”
Pairing Creativity and Expertise for Social Causes
The UX team began working with the MPC after Oracle employees won a code challenge set up through the Oracle Volunteers organization nearly two years ago. Ashley used the win to kick-start a social innovation program that pairs creative brains and UX expertise from Oracle with groups that need technology and design assistance to support their causes.
Other recent UX team projects included building an application that used data from beacons and the Internet of Things to assist walkers as they navigated the Bay Area Heart Walk, a fundraiser coordinated by the American Heart Association, and an internal design challenge to improve the usability of the Oracle Volunteers website.
Watch the Daily Minor Planet launch and learn more about the Asteroid Data Explorer, the Daily Minor Planet, and the people behind them.
Kathy Miedema is a senior market research analyst for Oracle.